People are extremely hard on themselves. They set standards for themselves that are almost impossible to meet and then spend a lot of time wondering why they are miserable. Beating ourselves up is one of the most common reasons why people don't want to heal. They risk causing themselves more pain than they already experience when they run into problems they've created for themselves in the past. I know I certainly wouldn't want to do the work if I was scared of my own wrath against myself.
Why do we do this?
There are a couple of reasons why this shows up. The first is that we were taught to do it by parents and caregivers. The second is that we are afraid of failure and the behavior that we create as a result is to beat ourselves up so much that we don't try anything new. We can start validating our own fears when we beat ourselves up. The third is that we have a low opinion of ourselves and we're beating ourselves up to validate that low opinion. We're trying to prove ourselves right through beating ourselves up.
Beating ourselves up happens as a result of some message or idea we took on somewhere along the way. It's not a natural thing. It's something we were either taught by other people or taught ourselves to do as a result of pain. It becomes a nasty habit that often, we don't even realize we do to ourselves. We don't see the stories we tell as self-punishment. We see them as part of the experience of what happened. Something happens in the external world, you make a choice from pain, that choice doesn't go so well, and you beat yourself up for making a crappy choice. We get mad at ourselves for not seeing things clearly. We're mad at ourselves for the pain we were feeling that caused us to make the bad choice. If we twist in stories about how the experience made us do it, it starts to get really warped. If the experience hadn't happened, I wouldn't have had to make the choice, and I wouldn't be here beating myself up. It's the world's fault I beat myself up. Do you see how crazy this gets?
The experience is neutral. The experience is just a thing that happened. The experience offered you a choice, which you then made. But the experience didn't make you choose to do what you did. The experience just offered you some options, but it isn't to blame for the choice you made. The experience also doesn't make you beat yourself up. You do that to yourself all on your own. You don't need the experience to help you with that. When you have experiences that cause you to do that, it's the Universe's way of showing you that you're not supposed to do that.
Sometimes it's not a bad choice that we make, sometimes it's just failure that causes us to do this to ourselves. We don't like to fail and we validate that within ourselves by beating ourselves up for failing. You decide to try a thing. It doesn't work out quite the way you wanted it to. Based on that, you start beating yourself up. You either blame the outside world for not cooperating with you or you blame yourself for trying in the first place. Both stories validate your need to hide and never try anything new again.
Other times it's because we have such high expectations, which are often learned in childhood. We have these crazy expectations that there is no way in hell we're ever going to meet. So, every time we try something new or do a thing, the impossible expectations make us perceive the outcome as failure every single time, causing us to beat ourselves up. We get mad at ourselves for not being able to achieve perfection or some insane expectation. We offer ourselves our own tripping hazard and then get mad at our experience when it doesn't cooperate with us or offer us the insane demands we have on ourselves.
Regardless of how this behavior shows up, it makes us feel like crap and causes us to want to avoid making choices or doing things because of a fear of the outcome that gets created. It also makes healing really difficult, because when we begin to look back on the past and we see more mistakes back there than we're aware of, we run the risk of beating ourselves up for those old experiences. That makes us not want to go digging because of the risk we'll hurt ourselves in the process. "I don't need another reason to feel crappy about myself so I'm just not going to do that." The avoidance is a self-protection mechanism. But what are we protecting ourselves from? Ourselves.
We suddenly have a behavior or a way of being that causes us to need to protect ourselves from ourselves. But instead of changing the behavior we just avoid everything because we think it's easier. Is it? It is at the beginning because we get ourselves into a bit of a loop. If I try to change the behavior and fail, then I have to beat myself up for not being able to change the behavior. It's easier just to avoid it than to run the risk of getting caught in the loop of beating myself up for beating myself up.
To get out of this, we have to unwind the story. We have to figure out where this thing came from. What's the root cause? We're not looking for new pain. We're looking to see how it relates to the original pain, the "fatal flaw" that we carry with us. For myself, I would figure out how this got created out of a sense of powerlessness and insecurity. How does this relate to your own fatal flaw?
Once you understand where it came from, now you can do something about it. Now you can begin to unwind it a little bit. You don't need to go back and heal the original wound. What you're going to do is isolate this as a behavior that you need to shift. What's the story you're telling about beating yourself up? What's the reason you do that to yourself? It probably relates back to the original wound.
The mental clarity that comes from understanding what's happening and why it's happening, without any stories of blame, shame, guilt, or victimization, is what you'll you use to change it. The clarity is your weapon of choice to deal with this behavior. By not telling the stories, we avoid blaming our experience for the problem. We take it on ourselves. I do this thing on my own, by my own choice. It's not the result of anything happening outside of me. You need that level of responsibility if you want to change it. Here's where one of the risks shows up - you can't beat yourself up for beating yourself up. You have to accept responsibility for the behavior without any of the blame and pressure you normally put on yourself. Don't get caught in the loop.
If you find yourself jumping on the hamster wheel, that's the place to start questioning yourself. What's showing up? Why is that story so much a part of you? What is that about? Why is taking responsibility for your own behavior without the hammer so difficult? Again, mental clarity is your weapon here. If you can talk yourself out of it at this stage, you'll be able to recognize it more easily the next time. This is your practice run.
You can gain the mental clarity in a host of different ways. I use tarot cards. You can journal. You can meditate. You can draw. You can go for a walk. You can use cards too if you want. However it works for you to be able to understand yourself better. The whole process is one of self-awareness. The questioning allows you to understand yourself. You're not questioning the experience. You're questioning your need to behave a certain way within the experience. Why do I feel the need to do this thing? Why do I make choices like that? Why do I act like that? Why do I respond that way? The way you get the clarity is by dropping the stories of blame, shame, guilt, and victimization. The stories make you defend yourself. They keep you in the behavior longer. They validate the behavior you're trying to change.
Dropping the stories frees you to take responsibility for your own behavior because now you're not at the mercy of your experience anymore. Now you're free to decide what your behavior is going to be for yourself. It's not happening as a result of pain or external experience. It's happening because you are making conscious choices. You're becoming aware of the pain within yourself that's caused you to take on these behaviors and you're making the choice to evict the pain and change the behavior.
Why does that scare people? Because they are worried about the new outcome. What will happen? What will other people think? They feel stuck in their own behaviors because of the unknown outcome. At least when they respond the way they always do, the outcome is known. It may be chaos, but at least it's familiar chaos. If you allow yourself to simply be curious about what might happen instead, you'll be able to move forward. Don't let the fear of changing it keep you stuck in it.
The fear of the unknown outcome can validate the behavior too. The mind will fill in the story with a more painful outcome than what already happens. Why does the mind do that? Because the mind only knows previous experience and pain. The mind offers you more of the same and when you try to make change, the mind will offer you a worse experience. That's normal. My mind does the same thing. The only difference between you and me is that I don't buy that malarkey. I drop it as fast as it shows up.
The minds' job is to protect you. It does so by making change seem like the worst thing ever. It's protecting you from the unknown and that validates the old behaviors. To shift the old behaviors, you have to be willing to ignore the mind when it tries to validate those same behaviors by telling stories of how things will be worse if you change. You have to ignore that piece.
Do you see that this is all self-awareness? We're paying attention to what the mind is doing. We recognize that we beat ourselves up. We understand where the story and the behavior are coming from. Now we see what the mind offers us when we try to change it. Our job is to simply be aware of all of it and drop what isn't true. Stop buying into those stories.
As you shut down the stories and you continue to talk yourself out of the behavior, all the things will come up. The fear will show up. The pain will show up. New stories will be told. The mind will just keep throwing obstacles at you until it has nothing left to throw. That may very well look like an Academy award winning performance in your mind and that's okay. You see that it's fiction and you just let it be there. You don't need to pick up the stories.
Once you wade your way through all of that, you'll be able to shift the behavior, at least mentally and emotionally. You'll then be given an immediate opportunity to do so externally. The Universe will jump up to meet you right away. What that will look like is an opportunity to change how you treat yourself. You'll get to do something that won't work or you'll make a crappy choice, and then you'll have the opportunity to stay out of beating yourself up. You'll have a real life opportunity to change the behavior within yourself. Your only job here is to be self-aware enough that you can change it. What does the new behavior need to look like?
The mind will probably still try to throw old stories at you. Your job is to stay out of them, don't pick them up. The mind will do its thing and that's okay. You have to separate yourself from that and slowly wind your way through creating that new behavior. It's not going to be perfect and you may still dip into the old behavior a little bit, but it'll be better than it was. As time goes on, you'll get more opportunities to continue to shift it. The more you do it, the easier it'll get.
Shifting behavior requires self-awareness and practice. It's like learning anything new. It takes time to get good at it. I have a daily practice of self-awareness, not only in experience as it happens, but also after the experience happens. When something meaningful happens, I will sit down with myself and check myself, like looking for ticks. I'm quick to question the experience. I'm not doing this in an awkward, insecure way. I'm doing this in a way that allows me to check my interpretation of the experience and fix any wonky thinking I might have. I check to see if the mind has made up any good stories I need to squish and I make sure that I don't need to re-have conversations or apologize for things. I take on accountability for my words and actions at the same time.
I am careful about how I take on my experiences. I monitor that process. I no longer let it happen by default. So once the experience is done and I'm by myself, now I make sure I put that experience away properly. I don't just toss it in the cupboard in a mangled pile. I manage my thinking if I need to. I process emotions where I need to. I remove stories when I need to. The entire process is done with awareness. No part of it is unconscious. That means that I don't run aground later on. That means it's not in the "heal later" pile. I don't have a pile of things to heal. I've done most of that work. But the other thing is that I'm not adding to it. New experiences are processed immediately. I don't wait. It's like bringing vegetables home from the grocery store. I don't just shove it all in the fridge. I cut up and wash it so that it's ready to use later. It's an intentional process on my part. I do that same sort of thing with my experience.
Do I have experiences that require that level of intervention daily? No, of course not. Not every random conversation requires that. But if I have an experience that runs the risk of becoming a problem, I deal with it quickly. When we're talking about beating ourselves up, you're going to have to be pretty self-aware for a while because this behavior is going to show up everywhere. It's probably in every little choice that you make. It's going to take a bit to work through all that. Some of it will even be hidden from you. You won't even recognize it to be able to deal with it and that's okay too.
The Universe will show you what you need if you're willing to pay attention to your experience. The Universe will highlight the pain points and your job is just to recognize them and then shift your behavior. Most of the time this will happen after the experience. Beating yourself up is usually something you do later on. That's where consciously putting experience away is helpful. Every experience you have needs to be processed in a way that allows you to shift the behavior. Yes, this will get easier. Yes, this seems overwhelming right now. Yes, it'll feel like a lot for a while. Yes, you can do it one experience at a time.
Be careful of the trap of crazy, high expectations. Watch your experience for clues. Pay attention to your thinking. That's what this looks like. You know what? It doesn't just look like this for beating yourself up. This is how I manage everything that happens in my experience every single day. I live this way.
The reason I bring up individual behaviors, emotions, or thoughts is because they make good jumping off points. Its' a place to start the journey if you want to go on it. I can give you a general idea of what the path needs to look like. Obviously it's going to shift a little depending on the person, but the general idea is there. There is a way to navigate this. There is a way around all this stuff that doesn't require you to hurt yourself to heal. You shouldn't have to make the wound bigger to heal it, at least not when we're talking about this type of healing.
Yes sometimes physical wounds require surgery and the wound needs to get bigger so we can fix the problem. But this process of self-mastery isn't that. We don't deep dive necessarily. We don't need to break things open the same way. The wound really doesn't need to get bigger, we just need to understand it better. It's the understanding of what we're seeing that allows us to shift it. It's not the deep-diving because that doesn't create mental clarity, it just offers pain.
Healing as a logical process where we acknowledge emotions, use them as clues, but don't get sucked in, gives us a more concrete and finite experience. Emotions will run away with you quickly and most people feel like they need to allow that, but I don't believe that to be true. I believe emotions can and should be acknowledged but that they should also start and stop. They should not be a tidal wave that carries people away.
When we make healing a logical process and use mental clarity as our weapon of choice, feelings are used as mental clues. Why did that emotion come up? What stories did the mind make up as a result of that emotion? Often this shows you where you're validating the story within yourself. The mind uses emotion as a form of validation of the old story. That means if the old story isn't true, the emotion isn't either. It becomes somewhat of red herring that you don't need to follow.
None of this is bad by the way. None of this is wrong in the sense that feeling the feelings isn't wrong, the old story isn't wrong, and the validation isn't wrong. It's the way the mind functions. It's how the mind has learned to behave because it hasn't been given any other tools. All we're doing is offering it different tools. We're not making any of it bad, we're simply changing it to something that works a little better. We can see the fault in the old strategies and it's okay to decide to change them. Making that decision doesn't require us to villainize anything or make anything a problem. We can just simply change it because we want to change it. We don't need to defend it or create an argument with it as a reason to change it. You can decide to make the change and just do it without making up a story around why you're doing it.
We're not making emotions the problem. They are simply there. We just need to understand what to do with them and what they are showing us in that moment. When we have that clarity, emotions become a more finite experience that has a beginning and an end. They don't swallow us whole. They don't take over everything. They don't distract us from gaining the mental clarity we're after. They simply offer us clues. They are part of the human experience and they are totally okay. We make them a little more neutral so that we aren't so distracted and bothered by them.
Changing the behavior of beating yourself up requires you to understand the behavior. You need to understand what you're doing and why you're doing it. You need to not get distracted by the emotions that show up. You need to consciously shift the behavior. If you can do that, you'll be able to stop beating yourself up.
It's possible. You can do it if you want to.
Love to all.